October 18, 2015

Roasted Carrot & Bacon Soup

We finally had our first truly chilly day up here in Wisconsin, and I may or may not have broken out my favorite boots, scarf, jacket, sweater, etc. Spoiler alert: I was completely overdressed and started sweating after my first class. However, I still take it as a sign that it's time to publish a recipe for the perfect fall soup. How is it perfect? Well, it's full of vegetables, which means it must be healthy, and there's tons and tons of bacon (unless you end up eating half of it before you throw it in the soup, but I speak from experience when I say it will still taste fine).

This soup only has 8 ingredients, and I'd be willing to bet that you already have them. It's also ready in under an hour, which makes it a plausible weeknight meal, especially since most of that is just waiting for the carrots to roast or the soup to simmer. Depending on how much you blend it, this soup can be smooth or chunky, though I prefer it smooth and velvety with only the flecks of bacon for texture.

I start by roasting the carrots (obviously since it's roasted carrot and bacon soup). This brings out the natural sweetness and shortens the soup's cooking time because it's faster to cook carrots in a 400 degree oven than gently simmering them for hours. I cook them until they are almost tender so that they aren't overcooked when I eventually add them to the soup. Although the oven temperature is pretty high, the goal isn't to char them. Any burnt flavors on the carrots will migrate into the soup and ruin the whole thing, though a little bit of color on the carrots is a good thing.

While the carrots are roasting, it's time for the other main flavor component (and my personal favorite): the bacon. I cook a half pound of bacon until it is very crispy and the fat renders out. It doesn't really matter what kind of bacon you use; regular, thin, hickory-smoked, and basically any other variety should work just fine. However, this is probably not the time to use lean bacon since you want a lot of bacon fat to cook the rest of the vegetables in.

You've probably noticed by now that whenever I cook with bacon, I use the bacon fat to cook the other ingredients in, especially the onions. Surprise! This recipe is no different. I cook diced onions, garlic, and jalapeno (totally optional) in the bacon fat until tender and fragrant. They pick up that amazing bacon flavor and allow it to permeate all of the soup. Once they are cooked, I throw in the roasted carrots plus some vegetable broth and thyme. That all simmers together for just under half an hour before I puree it until smooth. Again, you don't have to make it completely smooth, but I love that velvety texture. After that, I throw in the bacon since I don't really want pureed bacon in the soup and let it all simmer together for another 15 minutes or so.

This is truly the perfect fall soup, and the color is absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend making a double batch so you can eat leftovers all week, especially since the bacon flavor only gets stronger. It's light enough to be served as a first course but would also be a great meal by itself; just serve it with some crusty bread and you're all set.

2 lbs Carrots
2 T Olive Oil
8 oz Bacon
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1/2-1 Jalapeño, Minced (Optional)
2 Sprigs Thyme
6 Cups Vegetable Broth

Heat oven to 400F.

Peel the carrots and cut into 2" segments. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the carrots onto a baking sheet and roast for 16 minutes or until almost tender.

Cook the bacon in a large pot until crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove and dice when cool.

Cook the onion in the bacon fat for 4 minutes or until almost tender and translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the thyme, roasted carrots, and vegetable broth. Cover and cook for 25 minutes.

Remove the thyme and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the bacon and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serves 6


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